Thursday, July 05, 2007

Michael Wilbon Offends Some Guy In Boston

Bill Burt, the executive sports editor of Eagle Tribune Publishing, is all up in arms about some comments Michael Wilbon made about Boston. Wilbon appeared on the Dan Patrick show last Thursday. Among other things, Wilbon said that Black American NBA players do not want to play in the NBA because of Boston's racist history. Burt did not take too kindly to Wilbon's opinion.

Wilbon, apparently hurting for the pithy/comedic comments he is noted for on his "PTI" program, pulled an Al Campanis and lost his mind (at least I hope he did).

You remember Campanis. He was the Los Angeles Dodgers general manager who lost his job after implying blacks weren't qualified, mentally, to be executives in baseball.

Wilbon's version is equally of the Cro-Magnon version. He said that "racism" in Boston is the reason, at least he said so much when he wasn't fumbling his words. It was the strangest interview I've ever heard about "race" in Boston.

Comparing Michael Wilbon to Al Campanis is hysterical. However, Burt felt offended by several arguments made by Wilbon.

Michael Wilbon distinguished the willingness of Black Hispanics like David Ortiz to play in Boston stating that, "Dominican players don't know the history of Boston."

Michael said that when Doc Rivers took the head coaching job of the Celtics, he asked him, "Why?" Although Rivers ultimately accepted the position, Rivers knew that Wilbon was asking the question because of Boston's racist history.

Wilbon also said that Kevin Garnett said he was not going to play for the Celtics because of racism in Boston.

Additionally, Wilbon said that Boston Garden is the only place where he's been confronted several times and called, "nigger". In response to Wilbon, Burt writes, "Is he serious? When did this happen? Did he report this to his editors? Did he call security in the Garden? Does anybody believe this?" Because, of course, a swift response from security will diminish the hurt of being called a "nigger" to your face.

Wilbon and Dan discussed whether there were any beloved Black athletes in Boston since Bill Russell. They couldn't think of any they considered "beloved." Burt remembered Mo Vaughn, but some of the other possibilities like Jim Rice and Robert Parrish are borderline. Wilbon and Dan also discussed that no top notch Black NBA player has voluntarily chosen to play in Boston since the Bill Russell era. Wilbon pointed out that every single one has come via trade or draft.

Burt is not ignorant about Wilbon's concerns, but is clearly defensive about Boston's racial history. Besidess having the audacity to question Wilbon's veracity about being called a "nigger", Burt refuses to walk in Wilbon's shoes when considering his statements. Consequently, Burt's article comes of as no less hysterical and uninformed as Burt is accusing Wilbon to be.

To me, Wilbon was very clear in explaining himself on the radio. But much like Doc Rivers, I knew what he was talking about before he went into detail. Michael did say that the people who called him out of his name weren't necessarily representative of all of Boston and that maybe Boston is a friendly place for Blacks now, but it has a negative history that Black people know about that cause them to avoid the city.

And that sentiment is absolutely true. I've never lived in Boston, but it does have a wicked bad reputation. It may be myth, but it still persists. And this is despite Boston producing such great moments in Black history like Bill Russell, Mo Vaughn or even New Edition.

Still, Burt is undeterred in his annoyance for Wilbon's characterizations.

Simply put, Wilbon is a jerk. He made some egregious claims, but nobody knows if they are true. Heck, I'm not sure if he was talking about 15 or 20 years ago or if he was talking about last year. Was he called the "N-word?" Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn't. I don't know. If it was "nincompoop," though, I might believe him.

With such sentiments, how could Michael Wilbon possibly think Boston is a hostile place for Black people? Bill Burt is so ironic.


Pacifist Viking said...

The worst is when he questions whether Wilbon is telling the truth about being called a racist slur:
"Is he serious? When did this happen?" and "Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn't. I don't know." So Burt is implying that Wilbon is making up being called racist slurs in Boston: this is his argument for why Wilbon is wrong.

Though I learned in the long ago "Is PV bigoted against the South?" controversy, people get defensive about when you suggest their region/city has a racist history, even if that history is clearly documented, and even if you aren't directly calling any individual racist.

The Beautiful Game said...

very informative and professional post, great work

how can burt really try to discredit wilbon's claims of racial slurs?

that's despicable

John said...

why are there so few beloved black athletes in boston? for starters, there are hardly any black americans in baseball in general, so i dont know why we would be different than any other city in that respect. how many beloved yankees over the years have been black?
secondly, the celtics have been irrelevant for 20 years so its obvious why none of their players are beloved. paul pierce is semi-beloved, but might be more so if his team didn't stink to high heaven. ironically, al jefferson is one of the most popular athletes in the city even though he hasn't accomplished much. i don't think he is experiencing any of the racism that wilbon is talking about. hell even sebastian telfair is openly begging not to be traded.

and what about the patriots? there are several african-american patriots who could run for mayor in this town.

what the hell does kevin garnett think is going to happen to him if he comes here? he's going to get lynched? he's not going to get served in restaurants? what a dick. the only thing that would happen is he would be embraced and probably wouldn't be able to leave the house without people fawning over him. what a terrible fate.

its all about perception anyway. you could slap the racist label on any city and then go and pick out incidents, people, and controversies to support that theory. maybe black athletes are hesitant to come here because people like wilbon keep perpetuating the myth.

oh by the way: do you think nba players don't voluntarily come to boston because the team SUCKS and is run by morons? that might have something to do with it. i don't see a lot of black players clamoring to go to the memphis grizzlies either. must be a racist city.

if the c's win another championship, i've got a strange feeling that this would be a desirable destination for black NBA players once again. just a hunch.

Ap said...

John, while you make some really good points, you are misguided for a lot of reasons. Of course if the Celtics win more titles it will become a more desirable destination...this doesn't change the fact that the history of racism (just like the weather) will be a negative factor in making the decision. But perhaps the chance to win will make it a more desirable place and athletes will get over the history of racism and come anyway.

But you try so hard to dispel the fact that Boston has had a terrible history with race relations. It HAS; no ifs, ands or buts, and that MATTERS. If I'm choosing between two organizations and one has a history of racism and one does not, I'm going to go with the one that does nto REGARDLESS of how the other organization treats race relations now. The history of that company matters because PERCEPTION matters. Boston hurt its image as a city in the AA community because its history of racism, and it will always be undesirable because of that history....there's no shaking that, but with maybe a few more generations.

I go to school in Boston, and no, I don't think its a racist city (crazy drivers though). But at the same time if I'm KG I dont want to go to a city with that history. And you ask what will happen to him. Its more subtle than being lynched....its a propensity to blame the player more for losses and not give the credit for wins. Barry Bonds is demonized yes because of the steroids, yes because he's a jerk, but also its intensified by the fact that the man is African American...he is much easier to hate (and notice that Boston had the most vociferous hate of him...but I'm sure thats because they are the "purist" fans, but have a couple users on their roster). When racism is an issue its not that every white fan hates every black player, its a propensity to have different reactions to the same events. White players are just more likeable in Boston due to racial biases. In the same way Shaq is more likeable than Kobe...thats why you hear that the 3-peat was all Shaq and Kobe was piggybacking, its just biases and how people feel about others.

Pacifist Viking said...

Ap, just one question: people have suggested the city of Boston's racist history as a factor, but has anybody accused the Celtic organization of having a racist history? My understanding is that the organization itself was rather progressive under Red Auerbach.

The Rover said...

Red was known as a progressive; when I think of Boston and race, however, I think of the riots against busing in the 70s. Fair or not fair, it's still thought of as a racist city by a lot of blacks, so I totally understand where Wilbon and HC are coming from. I feel the same way.

Burt totally croseed the line. This isn't a hysterical talking head (like S.A.S.) - Wilbon is as rational a sports guy as we have out there. To ridicule him for his story is just flat-out wrong.

Anonymous said...

Just a response to the Barry Bonds comment. According to several bay area reports including on the Giants flag ship radio station KNBR, Bonds reception in Boston was much better then he expected and not as bad as most other places.

As someone living in the Bay area who watches enough Giant road games, I would certainly state that as true. Given all of the negative articles in the Globe/Herald about Bonds, I felt his reception was almost rosy.

Bonds actually sent one of his kids to a boarding school in the Boston suburbs. Reportedly, if Bonds doesn't reup with the Giants that he would prefer to sign with the Angels. But if a team like that isn't likely, I would no longer be shocked if he signs with the Sox -- assuming the Sox would be willing to make room for him by moving Ortiz to first base.

Kohms27 said...

I heard the Wilbon comments live and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. First he made the comments like he and KG discussed plying in Boston which he admitted on Bill Simmons podcast that it was Wilbon's opinion the KG did not want to come to Boston. It is simple KG does not want to play for the Celtics because they STINK. It is pretty simple. The situation in Boston is no better than than the one in Minn. I leave with this if Wilbon is right and Black athletes do not want to come here how do you explain Stallworth, Moss and Thomas all signing with the Pats. In fact both Stallworth and Moss took less money to play here. It is simple they are coming to a team that is a favorite to win the SuperBowl. If the Celtics were close to a title KG would behere by now. Instead Ainge traded for a guy that is 32 nd has bad ankles.

Kevin said...

"Sports news and opinions from a knowledgeable and witty woman"...... "Michael Wilbon distinguished the willingness of Black Hispanics like Manny Ortiz"....

Knowledgeable? Who the hell is Manny Ortiz? Unless you were trying to use the verbal foibles of John Kerry as humor, which I doubt, you should probably think about packing this blog in.

tym said...

Flash forward a month and change and Kevin Garnett willingly came to Boston via trade and immediately signed an extension.

Translation: Michael Wilbon completely and totally fabricated his interpretation for why Garnett didn't want to come here.

I don't doubt Wilbon has experienced racism in Boston, but I find it completely unfathomable that this is the only city that's happened in.

Boston has the same problems the rest of the country does.

Anonymous said...

So why is KG going to Boston if, according to Wilbon, he would not go due to the race issues in Boston.....Maybe Wilbon made that up? No. Never. Reporters never make anything up!

Anonymous said...

Wilbon thinks everything is racist/racial.